Test of English as a Foreign Language or TOEFL /ˈtoʊfəl/ toh-fəl, is astandardised test of English language proficiency for non-native English language speakers wishing to enroll in U.S. universities. The test is accepted by many English-speaking academic and professional institutions. TOEFL is one of the two major English-language test in the world, the other being theIELTS.
TOEFL test scores are accepted by more than 9000 colleges, universities, agencies and other institutions in 130 countries and that list includes the top 100 universities in the world. In addition it can be used to satisfy visa requirements for both Australia and the U.K.
TOEFL is a trademark of ETS (Educational Testing Service), a private non-profit organisation, which designs and administers the tests. The scores are valid for two years; then they are no longer reported.
In 1962, a national council made up of representatives of thirty government and private organizations was formed to address the problem of ensuring English language proficiency for non-native speakers wishing to study at U.S. universities. This council recommended the development and administration of the TOEFL exam for the 1963-1964 time frame.
In 1973, a cooperative arrangement was made between ETS, The College Board, and the Graduate Record Examinations board of advisers to oversee and run the program. ETS was to administer the exam with the guidance of the TOEFL board
Since its introduction in late 2005, the TOEFL Internet-based Test (iBT) format has progressively replaced the computer-based tests (CBT) and paper-based tests (PBT), although paper-based testing is still used in select areas. The TOEFL iBT test has been introduced in phases, with the United States, Canada, France, Germany, and Italy in 2005 and the rest of the world in 2006, with test centers added regularly. The CBT was discontinued in September 2006 and these scores are no longer valid.
Initially, the demand for test seats was higher than availability, and candidates had to wait for months. It is now possible to take the test within one to four weeks in most countries. The four-hour test consists of four sections, each measuring one of the basic language skills (while some tasks require integrating multiple skills) and all tasks focus on language used in an academic, higher-education environment. Note-taking is allowed during the TOEFL iBT test. The test cannot be taken more than once a week.
- The Reading section consists of 4–6 passages, each approximately 700 words in length, and questions about them. The passages are on academic topics; they are the kind of material that might be found in an undergraduate university textbook. Passages require understanding of rhetorical functions such as cause-effect, compare-contrast and argumentation. Students answer questions about main ideas, details, inferences, essential information, sentence insertion, vocabulary, rhetorical purpose and overall ideas. New types of questions in the TOEFL iBT test require filling out tables or completing summaries. Prior knowledge of the subject under discussion is not necessary to come to the correct answer.
- The Listening section consists of six passages 3–5 minutes in length and questions about them. These passages include two student conversations and four academic lectures or discussions. A conversation involves two speakers, a student and either a professor or a campus service provider. A lecture is a self-contained portion of an academic lecture, which may involve student participation and does not assume specialized background knowledge in the subject area. Each conversation and lecture stimulus is heard only once. Test-takers may take notes while they listen and they may refer to their notes when they answer the questions. Each conversation is associated with five questions and each lecture with six. The questions are meant to measure the ability to understand main ideas, important details, implications, relationships between ideas, organization of information, speaker purpose and speaker attitude.
- The Speaking section consists of six tasks: two independent and four integrated. In the two independent tasks, test-takers answer opinion questions on familiar topics. They are evaluated on their ability to speak spontaneously and convey their ideas clearly and coherently. In two of the integrated tasks, test-takers read a short passage, listen to an academic course lecture or a conversation about campus life and answer a question by combining appropriate information from the text and the talk. In the two remaining integrated tasks, test-takers listen to an academic course lecture or a conversation about campus life and then respond to a question about what they heard. In the integrated tasks, test-takers are evaluated on their ability to appropriately synthesize and effectively convey information from the reading and listening material. Test-takers may take notes as they read and listen and may use their notes to help prepare their responses. Test-takers are given a short preparation time before they have to begin speaking. The responses are digitally recorded, sent to ETS’s Online Scoring Network (OSN), and evaluated by three to six raters.
- The Writing section measures a test taker’s ability to write in an academic setting and consists of two tasks: one integrated and one independent. In the integrated task, test-takers read a passage on an academic topic and then listen to a speaker discuss it. The test-taker then writes a summary about the important points in the listening passage and explains how these relate to the key points of the reading passage. In the independent task, the test-taker must write an essay that states, explains, and supports their opinion on an issue, supporting their opinions or choices, rather than simply listing personal preferences or choices. Responses are sent to the ETS OSN and evaluated by four raters.
|Reading||3–5 passages, each containing 12–14 questions||60–100 minutes|
|Listening||6–9 passages, each containing 5–6 questions||60–90 minutes|
|Speaking||6 tasks||20 minutes|
|Writing||2 tasks||50 minutes|
One of the sections of the test will include extra, uncounted material. Educational Testing Service includes extra material to pilot test questions for future test forms. When test-takers are given a longer section, they should give equal effort to all of the questions because they do not know which question will count and which will be considered extra. For example, if there are four reading passages instead of three, then one of the passages will not be counted. Any of the four could be the uncounted one.
Taking the TOEFL is a necessary step for any non US educated student wanting to study at a North American university. It is also increasingly required from other educational institutions throughout the world as well as a desired or mandatory job qualification.
While it is true that the TOEFL is an extremely difficult test there are a number of resources to help students prepare for the test. Luckily the Internet has an ever expanding treasure trove of study materials. Most of these areas require registration and payment however a number of the sites do offer some free services. If you are interested in taking the TOEFL it will probably be necessary to purchase some of these services. This guide shows you a number of the free services available on the Internet. By using this feature you can get an excellent headstart on your studies without paying a dime.
What is the TOEFL?
Before beginning to study for the TOEFL it is a good idea to understand the philosophy and purpose behind this standardized test. Here is an excellent detailed description of the Internet based test.
What can I expect from TOEFL?
There are a number of resources available to help you discover exactly what grammar listening and reading skills will be expected on the TOEFL. One of the most thorough of these resources isTestwise.Com
which explains each type of question in terms of the grammar or skill required to answer that type of question successfully.
How do I approach the TOEFL?
One of the most important skills to acquire before taking the test is not a language skill. It is TOEFL test taking strategy. To get up to speed on test taking, this guide to taking tests can help you understand general test taking preparation. The TOEFL, like all standardized American tests, has a very particular structure and typical traps for you to fall into. By understanding these traps and structures you can go a long way to improving your score.
The writing section of the TOEFL requires that you write an essay based on a set topic. Testmagic.com has a wonderful selection of sample essays
discussing common mistakes and giving examples of essays with various scores to show you the range expected on the essay.